Sydney: Three people are dead after a hostage drama in a Sydney cafe ended in heavy gunfire as security forces stormed the building, Australian police said on Tuesday.
Heavy gunfire and blasts from stun grenades filled the air shortly after 2 am local time at the Lindt cafe in central Sydney, bringing to an end a siege that had lasted more than 16 hours. The 50-year-old hostage-taker was among the dead; while two hostages - a 38-year-old woman and a 34-year-old man, were the other two deceased, New South Wales police said.
Here are the LIVE Updates:
9:10 pm Sydney time (3:05 pm IST): Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott to condole the death of two innocent persons in yesterday's hostage crisis and appreciated his leadership in resolving it as well as release of the hostages, including two Indians.
8:35 pm Sydney time (2:15 pm IST): Australia`s government pledges to determine why an Iranian-born Islamist with a history of extremism and violence was able to play out a "sick fantasy" by seizing hostages in a day-long siege.
4:11 pm Sydney time (10:41 am IST): In one of the YouTube videos, first uploaded in 2009, a woman wearing a niqab, understood to be Droudis, says: “I regret to say I am a terrorist. I admit and formally confess that for many years I have been a terrorist, but I’ll try not to be anymore.” In another video, she says “(Muslims) must be happy with any act of God”, including acts of terrorism such as the 9/11 attacks, reports the Australian news agency. “Yes we are happy about the punishment of September 11. Yes we are happy about the punishment in Bali. Yes we are happy about the punishment of the Holocaust and any other punishment that God sends to us.”
4:10 pm Sydney time (10:40 am IST): Amirah Droudis, the woman believed to be the girlfriend of Man Haron Monis, has claimed to be a terrorist in videos posted to YouTube, says an Australian news website. The 35-year-old was convicted last year of aiding and abetting Monis in sending offensive letters to the families of fallen Australian soldiers. Her home was raided by the Australian Police this morning.
4:05 pm Sydney time (10:35 pm IST): In a statement, US Ambassador John Berry says the United States was grieving with Australia. “Let us overcome the darkness of those who choose hate and violence with hearts filled with the bright shining lights of this season of peace and love".
3:30 pm Sydney time (10:00 am IST): Australian PM Tony Abbott and his wife Margie Abbott visit the Martin Place memorial and lay a bouquet of flowers.
3:25 pm Sydney time (9:55 am IST): A caterer has told the ABC that the suspicious package was, in actual, a backpack in the DFAT canteen.
3:10 pm Sydney time (9:40 am IST): The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a number of selfies are being shared on Twitter and uploaded to Instagram by the onlookers. In a happy snap, "three men likely to be tourists pose in front of the police tape marking off the exclusion zone around the terrifying hostage situation in the Lindt cafe in Martin Place. One of the men gives the peace sign...A number of the selfies posted to social media are being shared on Twitter as social media users shame and condemn the subjects for their insensitivity."
3:05 pm Sydney time (9:35 am IST): Another Indian national, who was among about 15 people held hostage in a popular Sydney cafe and later rescued, was also an Infosys employee.
2:50 pm Sydney time (9:20 am IST): Australian PM Tony Abbott phones the wounded police officer, thanks him for his service and wishes his best for a speedy recovery.
2:10 pm Sydney time (8:40 am IST): The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade building in Canberra has been evacuated after a suspicious parcel was found in the canteen. Members of the Australian Federal Police Bomb Response Team are present at the scene.
2:05 pm Sydney time (8:35 am IST): Sydney Morning Herald reports Monis had been lately charged with “more than 50 allegations of indecent and sexual assault” for incidents between 2000 and 2002. During this period, Monis ran a clinic that offered “spiritual consultations”. A woman had approached police in January and blamed Monis for assaulting her at the clinic in 2002. “The assaults are alleged to have been undertaken under the guise of a spiritual healing technique, and the man warned the woman not to tell anyone about them,” police had said in a statement.
2:00 pm Sydney time (8:30 am IST): According to Sydney Morning Herald, Monis was last year charged as an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. The Daily Telegraph notes that Noleen Hayson Pal (30) was stabbed 18 times and set ablaze in western Sydney. Amirah Droudis, Monis' girlfriend, was charged with Hayson Pal’s murder.
1:45 pm Sydney time (8:15 am IST): Reports suggest cops have conducted raids at the residence of gunman Man Haron Monis’ partner, Amirah Droudis, in New South Wales.
12:45 pm Sydney time (7:15 am IST): Scores have gathered at a memorial blocks away from Cafe Lindt to pay tributes to the departed.
— NSW Police (@nswpolice) December 16, 2014
Also Read: Sydney cafe siege victims hailed as `heroes`
12:45 pm Sydney time (7:15 am IST): We don't know the offender's motivations at this stage. This will be subject to an investigation: NSW Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn
12:30 pm Sydney time (7:00 am IST): NSW coroner confirms that 3 bodies have been received and homicide squad will conduct full investigation into deaths.
11:30 am Sydney time (6:00 am IST): Swiss chocolate-maker Lindt (the owner of the Sydney cafe) has issued a statement saying it is "devastated" by the outcome of the standoff.
11:00 am Sydney time (5:30 am IST): As a mark of respect, the Sydney Opera House has cancelled performances.
The Opera House has decided to cancel the children’s performances scheduled for Tuesday 16 December, 2014. More: http://t.co/gV72UXOtdX
— Sydney Opera House (@SydOperaHouse) December 15, 2014
10:50 am Sydney time (5.20 am IST): Authorities are keeping a watch for other possible terror activities.
If anyone does have info about possible signs of terrorism in Australia, we urge to call the National Security Hotline on 1800 1234 00.
— NSW Police (@nswpolice) December 15, 2014
10:45 am Sydney time (5.15 am IST): Security has been heightened in many cities across the world in the wake of Sydney siege.
NYPD counter terrorism bureau sending officers from Singapore to Sydney to work with Oz police. Manhattan security was also increased.
— Lisa Millar (@LisaMillar) December 15, 2014
10:30 am Sydney time (5.00 am IST): Australia’s most senior Shia cleric, Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein al-Ansari, has in a statement said that such a crisis reminds people from all faiths and backgrounds that they 'should unite as Australians to oppose such radicalism and build a peaceful and harmonious society', reports The Guardian.
10:00 am Sydney time (4.30 am IST): 34-year-old man killed has been identified as Tori Johnson, manager of Lindt Café; while the 38-year-old woman killed in the Sydney siege has been identified as Katrina Dawson, a mother of three.
9:30 am Sydney time (4.00 am IST): Flags be flown at half-mast on all Commonwealth government buildings in wake of the Sydney siege.
9:00 am Sydney time (3.30 am IST): Two pregnant women, who were among the hostages, are being checked at a Sydney hospital. Two people have been admitted with gunshot wounds, say agencies.
8:40 am Sydney time (3.10 am IST): We also know that he posted graphic extremist material online. Tragically, there are people in our community ready to engage in politically motivated violence: PM Abbott
8:37 am Sydney time (3.07 am IST): We know that he sent offensive letters to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan and was found guilty of offences related to this: PM Abbott
8:36 am Sydney time (3.06 am IST): As the siege unfolded... he sought to cloak his actions with the symbolism of the ISIL death cult: PM Abbott
8:35 am Sydney time (3.05 am IST): He had a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability: PM Abbott in his address to nation
8:00 am Sydney time (2.30 am IST): Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott will address the nation following National Security Committee briefing.
7:30 am Sydney time (2.00 am IST): Iran had apparently warned Australia about Monis' mental condition, tweet Tehran-based journalist Ghorbani Sadegh.
Also Read: Iran condemns deadly Sydney hostage crisis
— Sadegh Ghorbani (@GhorbaniSadegh) December 15, 2014
— Sadegh Ghorbani (@GhorbaniSadegh) December 15, 2014
7:10 am Sydney time (1.40 am IST): Man Haron Monis, the Sydney hostage-taker killed in a 16-hour siege, was born in Iran, the 50-year-old arrived in Australia as a refugee in 1996. He had been convicted over sending offensive letters to the families of dead soldiers.
6:10 am Sydney time (12.40 am IST): The area will remain cordoned off and diversions will remain in place around Martin Place: NSW Police
Advice re-roads in Sydney CBD - diversions remain in place around Martin Place - full details http://t.co/CoIF12PjCz
— NSW Police (@nswpolice) December 15, 2014
"Police will continue to maintain a perimeter around a cafe at the corner of Martin Place and Philip streets this morning.
Traffic and Highway Patrol police have cordoned off parts of Hunter, King, Phillip and Elizabeth streets.
• Elizabeth Street between Hunter and King Streets – closed to all traffic
• Elizabeth Street – northbound between Market and King Street – closed to all traffic
• Phillip Street – between King and Hunter Streets – closed to all traffic
• King Street – between Elizabeth and Phillip Streets – closed to all traffic
• Macquarie Street – between St James Road and Hunter Street – closed to all traffic
Bus services will run according to regular schedules, although some routes will be diverted around the affected area.
Train services will operate normally although Martin Place station remains closed.
People intending to travel to the Sydney CBD, away from the cordoned off area are advised, to go ahead with their plans.
Those affected by the operation are advised to contact their employers, monitor media reports and seek advice via the NSW Police website and social media platforms."
6:15 am Sydney time (12.45 am IST): Australian PM Tony Abbott tweets: Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two deceased hostages, the wounded and the other hostages.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two deceased hostages, the wounded and the other hostages. #sydneysiege
— Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) December 15, 2014
5:54 am Sydney time (12.24 am IST): The injured hostages were taken to hospital with a range of injuries: NSW Police Commissioner
5:53 am Sydney time (12.23 am IST): A male police officer was shot in the face, but is expected to recover: NSW Police Commissioner
Two people were taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries, while a police officer was being treated after being hit in the face with gunshot pellets. A woman was being treated for a gunshot wound to the shoulder, police added.
5:52 am Sydney time (12.22 am IST): Tactical police stormed Sydney cafe after hearing gunfire, activating emergency action plan: NSW Police Commissioner
5:50 am Sydney time (12.20 am IST): 17 hostages have been accounted. Two of those hostages were killed. They are a man, aged 34, and a woman, aged 38... the lone gunman was shot dead: NSW Police Commissioner.
5:45 am Sydney time (12.15 am IST): New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione confirms that Sydney cafe siege was "an isolated incident ... the act of an individual."
Officials confirm that the man behind the hostage crisis was Iran-born Man Haron Monis, 50, who had first come to the attention of the police when he penned poisonous letters to the family of dead Australian soldiers seven years ago.
5:43 am Sydney time (12.13 am IST): I speak with the heaviest of hearts. The events that we have seen have shaken us, but they do not dampen our resolve: New South Wales Premier Mike Baird
5:33 am Sydney time (12.03 am IST): New South Wales police have confirmed that the Sydney siege is over. A release by the police department reads:
Critical incident established following Martin Place siege
"A critical incident investigation has been launched after three people died and four others were injured during a police operation in Sydney’s CBD this morning.
About 2.10am (Tuesday 16 December), a confrontation occurred between police and a man who had taken a number of people hostage inside a café on Martin Place.
Shots were fired during the confrontation.
As a result, the 50-year-old man was pronounced dead after being taken to hospital.
Another man, aged 34, and a woman, aged 38, were pronounced dead after being taken to hospital.
Two women have been taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries, while a male police officer suffered a non-life threatening wound to his face from gunshot pellets and was taken to hospital.
Another woman has been taken to hospital with a gunshot wound to her shoulder.
A 35-year-old woman was taken to hospital as a precaution.
The police operation has concluded and the investigations into entire incident will be overseen by the Professional Standards Command.
All information will be provided to the Coroner who will determine the cause of and make any findings about the events leading to the deaths.
No further details are available at this time; however, police are appealing for witnesses to come forward. Anyone who can assist police should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000."